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U.s. 22, Us 19, Fbi 13, United States 10, Russia 9, Nelson Mandela 9, New York 8, Raul Castro 8, Clinton 7, Obama 7, South Africa 7, Cuba 6, Geico 5, Asiana 5, Cnn 5, Angie 5, Iran 5, America 5, George W. Bush 5, Afghanistan 4,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    News/Business. Wolf Blitzer. Traditional reporting  
   and online resources update international news. New.  

    December 9, 2013
    2:00 - 3:31pm PST  

disaster, there are now growing questions about whether airline pilots are relying too much on cockpit technology. also, spies busted, current and former russian diplomats just brought down by prosecutors for fraud, now suspected of espiona espionage. what brought them to the attention of federal agents? and a vip flight, air force one departing for nelson mandela's memorial service with an impressive passenger list including two presidents and three first ladies. what's going on behind the scene? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." it was a horrifying and deadly disaster, all caught on camera. tomorrow, the national transportation safety board will begin a two-day hearing on the july crash of this asiana jumbo jet at the san francisco airport. the "wall street journal" is reporting that investigators say the crash was caused by a
combination of pilot confusion about thrust settings and their excessive reliance on cockpit computers. cnn's tom foreman is working this story for us. what are you finding out? >> reporter: what it looks like in this situation is that in fact, there was going to be an engagement in this discussion about whether or not these pilots in fact relied too much on these computers to land the plane safely and if they did, why, how do you keep it from happening again. >> oh, my god. >> reporter: two key questions surrounding the asiana aircraft as the jet approached the san francisco airport, why did computers controlling the throttle disengage and why did the pilots fail to notice as the plane's speed plummeted dangerously low. the answers could explain why the jet landed so short of the runway, smashing its tail into a sea wall, cartwheeling, killing three people and injuring almost 200 more. >> i thought that was it. i thought i'm dying. >> reporter: aviation analysts
say the crash is a warning, computerized automation has clearly improved airline operations and safety in recent decades, but relying on it too much, so-called automation addiction, is a real danger. >> automation definitely helps in most circumstances but you have to treat it as help rather than exclusively letting it fly the airplanes. it's still an airplane and pilots still need to be able to fly the airplane. >> reporter: if you think asiana was a freak occurrence, think again. in 2007, investigators say the auto throttle on a 747 turned itself off just before handing in england. the disengagement was neither commanded nor recognized by the crew, they wrote in their report, and air speed decayed rapidly. then a crew member spotted the problem, took control and landed the plane safely. that's why experienced pilots like captain keith walzinger who has flown planes just like that asiana jet says -- >> the pilot should have his
hand on the throttle itself, whether it's being controlled by the auto pilot or by the pilot manually. you have a feel for where the throttle position should be. >> reporter: these hearings will not get to the bottom of what caused this crash. that's not really their purpose. this is more of a general investigation. but the investigation itself is already spurring serious discussion about accountability and passenger safety and making sure that computers help pilots fly planes, not the other way around. wolf? >> tom foreman, thanks very much. let's get more with michael goldfarb. how much of a problem is this automation? we're all getting used to it. >> it's huge. in fact, faa last month issued a report requiring manufacturers now to factor in human limitations in the cockpit, precisely because of this automation addiction, this overreliance, where in fact many
pilots, the piloting skills themselves have atrophied over the years. >> that's shocking to hear, especially with a very sophisticated brand new airliner, a major jet, and you've got hundreds of people potentially on board at any one time. >> i think in the case of asiana they will find contributing factors. know how we always discuss it's a series of things that come together which is why crashes are so rare. we had the instrument landing system at the airfield was not working. the pilots knew that when they took off but that helps the pilot maintain its position, vertically, horizontally. we had a pilot who had never landed before at san francisco. so you put that combined with the 777 automation system that they're new to, and they didn't know when they were caught in a particular mode. it's called, you know, mode awareness, where you know it on your vcr, on your computer, when you start panicking, you think you're in one part of the program and you find out that maybe you need a different screen. absolutely the same thing happens to the pilots. >> how widespread is this problem right now? >> 27% of the crashes are tied
to it, number one. we have solved the other problems, wolf. we have things in the cockpit that help us with weather displa displays, we don't fly in thunderstorms. we have taken away those kind of problems. this is a remaining problem. it's extremely boring, quite frankly. remember the conductor in new york last week who said he zoned out. imagine taking off in los angeles, landing in new york and only touching the controls two to three times. you're just not needed. you're more of an i.t. person than a pilot. >> you're just sitting there watching all the numbers and everything else. >> let's take the opposite example. sully sullenberger. here's an example of someone with the a feel -- >> miracle on the hudson. >> he was close to the ntsb, he understood the issues and was a glider pilot so those things came together to allow him with his experience to get out of a terrible emergency situation. many pilots are trained on simulators. they really haven't had hands-on flying. they are trained on simulators and they don't know at that
moment when things go wrong, how to react. >> sully sullenberger will be in your seat tomorrow here in "the situation room." we will talk about this. how do we fix this problem? >> well, as i mentioned, they are starting to put in human factors to the design of the cockpit, starting to reintroduce manual controls. so whereas an automated system can work, let's train the pilots manually again on holding on to the throttle and understanding the aircraft. so a lot of remedial training will make a big difference in this. >> for a new generation of pilots who presumably haven't had that kind of training a that is what you're saying? >> the double bind is the new generation of pilots have a better i.t. background than flying but what happens when something goes wrong. when happens when you get caught in a situation where you are overrelying on a piece of automation and you don't know how to get back out of that. >> thanks very much for helping us. appreciate what's going on. let's hope they fix it and fix it soon. it's a serious problem out there and millions of people are flying every year. they want to be safe. >> thank you, wolf. up next, alleged russian
spies busted in the united states but not for spying. we have uncovered new information and it's a story you will see and hear first right here on cnn. we'll talk about it with a former fbi agent who took down one of america's most notorious spies, in a story made famous in the film "breach."
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walking into "the situation room" right now, eric o'neill, the former fbi agent who helped bring down a notorious russian spy and is here to talk about that story and a lot more. you will hear it first on cnn.
there's a new wrinkle in the fraud case involving nearly 50 russian diplomats and their wives. they're accused of running a decade-long scheme to steal $1.5 million from medicaid but now it appears there may be a whole lot more to this story. sources telling cnn some of these alleged thieves are also spies. cnn's justice reporter evan perez broke the story for us. tell us what you've learned. >> reporter: well, wolf, sources tell me that for some time, the fbi has been trying to bring spy charges against several of these diplomats. these are diplomats that work out of new york for the russian consulate there. but in the end, the justice department decided that they wanted to bring -- there wasn't enough evidence and they decided to go after them for fraud, defrauding medicaid, which is even more embarrassing to the russian government. now, you might recall the 2010 case that exposed a group of russian sleeper agents, including one named anna chapman. she was the classic good-looking spy who climbed up social circles in washington and new
york and has since become a media star back home in russia. this case appears a lot less sophisticated. one of the diplomats charged in this case is charged with his wife, allegedly filled out medicaid forms claiming to make about $3,000 a month when in fact, he was making more than $5,000 a month. his family got about $30,000 in medicaid benefits. meantime, according to prosecutors, they were spending about $50,000 at high end stores like prada and bloomingdale's. here's what the top federal prosecutor in manhattan had to say about this. >> as the complaint alleges, the scam exploited a weakness in the medicaid system and the charges expose shameful and systemic corruption among russian diplomats in new york. >> evan, how many of these diplomats are still in the united states? what happens to them? >> reporter: of the 49 that are charged, wolf, only 11 are still in the united states, and they
cannot be arrested. that's because they have diplomatic immunity. the only way the case can move forward is if the russian government waives their immunity and that's not likely to happen. the state department is expected to send them home instead. >> what's the russian government been saying about all of this? >> reporter: well, the russian government said that the public announcement of these charges was undiplomatic and that they appear designed to cause problems between the two countries. the russian deputy foreign minister told local news agencies quote, we have a lot of claims to american diplomats in moscow but we're not making them public. so wolf, sounds like we can expect some more retaliation perhaps from the russians in the coming weeks and months. >> wouldn't be surprised. usually when the u.s. does something like this, they respond tit for tat in moscow. we'll see what happens. i suspect some u.s. diplomats getting ready to be expelled presumably from russia. evan, good reporting. evan perez reporting for us.
perhaps the most famous espionage case was that of robert hanson, an american fbi agent who was busted for spying on behalf of the russians. he was brought down by a fellow fbi agent, a young man named eric o'neill, who was played by the actor ryan phillipi in a movie about the scandal called "breach." listen to this. >> i never cared about making headlines. i wanted to make history. >> he's a traitor, eric. spying for the russians in 1985. good news is you're in the middle of the biggest case we've ever run. >> joining us is the man who actually busted robert hanson, the former fbi agent, eric o'neill. thanks very much for coming in. let's talk about this case that evan was just reporting on. what do you make of this alleged spy ring? >> well, it sounds a little bit like the mobster investigations where you can't get them for what you want to get them for but you get them for tax fraud. we have a group of russians who
are working in the different diplomacy, the diplomacy in d.c. and consulate in new york, and it seems that you guys broke a good story, the initial investigation may have been for intelligence, for spying, and they found some other information that was able to release a much broader and distressing number of actions against them. >> if these were all russian diplomats or their spouses, for example, they would have diplomatic immunity as evan points out and the u.s. -- unless the russians agree to waive it, they are going back to russia, not to jail. >> exactly. we don't have a treaty with russia where they would send their people back to be on trial here so they would literally have to waive it and allow us to do it. it's very, very rare. >> based on your information, you are a former fbi agent, you know a lot about this, the cold w war is over so a lot of folks thing the spying between u.s. and russia should be over as well. there's still a significant amount of espionage going on and
some say as much as the bad old days of the cold war. >> espionage is the way the world turns, the way a country or society gets an advantage over another. espionage right now has transformed from cold war espionage to espionage looking at economic information and information that can make a country stronger. so it's even more of a problem today for us. >> when the u.s. goes ahead and makes all of this public, all this kind of information, what kind of pressure does that in turn put on the russians to follow suit, if you will, and make up stories or maybe find some real stories about u.s. espionage inside russia? >> if you think about it, there's back and forth. we had edward snowden. that was a big problem and russia i believe was, if not behind it, at least complicit in it. >> let's step back. so you say behind it. what do you mean by that? >> i've got this theory and you can call it a conspiracy theory, that the ease with which he left here, the ease with which he has suddenly gotten asylum in russia
may have been aided by the russian intelligence services. >> that's your suspicion. >> that's my suspicion. >> you have any evidence to back it up? >> no. >> none whatsoever -- >> no. >> because he flatly denies everything. >> walks like a duck, smells like a duck, sometimes it's a duck. >> you would guess a lot of your former colleagues in the fbi would have a similar suspicion? >> i think so. >> there's more to this story than he's alleging right now, he's suggesting? >> he sure seemed very sophisticated in how he did it and suddenly he disappears and sneaks through china and all sorts of things happen and he's sitting in an airport lounge and gets asylum. it's that easy. >> how much damage do you think edward snowden did to the united states? >> untold damage. >> when you say untold, what does that mean? >> one of the biggest problems he did is he created a system where we cannot trust any of those different systems, whether the nsa or other intelligence services we put together. so they all have to be dismantled and start over. >> some people think he did a service by exposing a really aggressive nsa surveillance which could filter in on american citizens, not just foreigners.
>> true, that's one -- i don't subscribe to that. i don't think it's a service because i think that had he really felt passionate about it, really felt like he was making change, he might have actually gone -- come back and said okay, i'll go on trial, let me have my say because i'm right. instead he ran and hid and who knows what else he's selling out to the russians right now. >> that's a serious suspicion that you have, charge that you have, that the russians, the russian government of vladimir putin, was actually running him as an agent when he committed these whatever he did. stealing all this information. >> exactly. a suspicion, but i would not be surprised if that's where it started. they're that good. >> how tense would you say the espionage relationship between the u.s. and russia is right now? >> it's extremely tense. we go from the russian illegals, you showed anna chapman and her friends and colleagues there, which are illegals. now, we started with diplomatic immunity. these are russian intelligence agents who do not have -- or spies who do not have immunity so they are here illegally under
some pretext. that's dangerous for them because we can arrest and try them. that's what we saw in that case. in the current case, we have 49 or so individuals who are here, many of them with immunity, and we can't try them. now they have committed fraud and it's clear they committed fraud against the united states and against the united states people. that's why so many of them were pulled out quickly. the ones that have immunity can hang around and finish up what they need to do. then we'll see them all leave. >> what did you think of that film that was based on what you did with ryan philipi? >> great film. it was an inside look at how the fbi actually conducts an investigation without all of the extra gadgets and wizardry that goes into hollywood movies. >> hanson caused an enormous amount of damage to the united states. >> untold damage. we are literally still trying to figure out -- >> who caused more, he at the fbi or aldridge aims, another soviet russian spy at the cia? >> if you asked hanson, he would say himself.
he had no respect for ames. he would constantly tell me he was a bumbling fool, his words. he was almost proud at how good of a spy he was. i truly believe that he did more damage. >> without acknowledging at all that snowden was run by the russians, who caused more damage, snowden or aldridge ames or hanson? >> at the end of the day, robert hanson, because the secrets that hanson stole were targeted to hurt the united states. the damage that snowden has done, we don't -- one, we don't know the full extent of it. two, one could say there are some politically beneficial aims to it but at the end of the day, i think that most of what he did was tear apart different goals that we had and different programs and systems we had that now have to be redone. >> eric, thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you. >> appreciate it. coming up, power flight, unlike any other. we have details on who is flying aboard air force one with
president obama to nelson mandela's memorial service. it could be an awkward moment when they all get there. will president obama come face to face with cuba's raul castro? they are both on the podium, both speaking tomorrow morning. stand by.
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the president, prime minister and dozens of other leaders are heading to south africa for what could be the largest gathering of its kind at least in decades. the stadium where nelson mandela made his last public appearance at the 2010 world cup will also be the setting of his massive memorial service tomorrow. speakers will include president obama, the cuban president raul castro and the united nations secretary general ban ki-moon. security onstage and elsewhere will be extremely tight but there are other concerns as well about the audience that will include three former u.s. presidents, george w. bush, bill clinton and jimmy carter as well
as many other dignitaries and celebrities. george and laura bush are aboard air force one with the obamas right now. so is the former secretary of state hillary clinton, the current attorney general of the united states, eric holder, the national security advisor to the president, susan rice, among many, many others. let's bring in our chief national correspondent, john king, who has covered a lot of these kinds of trips. we have been on many of these major trips. can it get awkward from time to time? you have -- there will be four american presidents, current president, three former presidents, in south africa with their wives at the same time. >> number one, a major security challenge for the united states secret service and their international allies as they cooperate on this. i just spoke to a couple sources, they say they are very confident. can it get awkward. you mentioned the current president of the united states and raul castro. i was at the mandela inauguration where vice president gore was there and
fidel castro. fidel castro several times tried to approach vice president gore and he literally ducked him, went behind aides. it was a comkocomical scene. >> i have the official program that the south african government put out and among the tributes after ban ki-moon, the u.n. secretary general speaks, the tribute by foreign dignitaries, then the president of the united states, barack obama, followed by the leaders of brazil, china and india and then cuba. raul castro. they will all be on this little stage, this little area in front of 90,000 people who have gathered in the soccer stadium so there could be a moment where president obama and raul castro may shake hands, may talk, who knows. >> be interesting to watch if they shake hands. that was the big thing, the gore people wanted no physical contact or substantive communications because of the relationship between the two countries. obviously, you can get as close as we are at an event like that and we will see what happens. you watch something like that. for the former presidents to be together, you know this because you have been at big events, the
opening of presidential libraries here at home, the king hussain funeral, you had a group like that. the pope john paul ii funeral, you had several presidents together. it's a security challenge, number one, then the question is how do they work amongst themselves. it's an exclusive club. we do know on this flight over, the president is in his office, george and laura bush have the medical suite which is -- >> on air force one. >> on air force one. they can recon figure it, make it more comfortable and secretary clinton is in the senior staff quadrant of air force one. we also know they spent a decent amount of time, jay carney, the press secretary, told reporters on the way over they spent a lot of time, the group of them together at the conference table, the president has in his little suite of offices there. you would want to be a fly on the wall in that conversation. remember, president obama essentially ran against george w. bush in 2008, as much as he ran against john mccain. but i have spoken to the former president bush about this. he said he gets it, that's politics. one thing about former president bush, he has done this president a favor. president obama appreciates it.
he's pulled back from the public discourse but he loves politics. he loves to talk politics and so i can imagine george w. bush, if he gets a private moment, looking over at hillary clinton and saying so what are you thinking. >> but bill clinton is flying separately with chelsea from another location. he presumably has his own plane. jimmy carter and his wife are flying over separately with a group of so-called elders, so that will be a separate plane for them. but all four of those presidents, one current, three former presidents and their wives, they will all presumably be at this memorial service. you were saying the secret service has got to be worried about a situation like that, and even though the south african security forces have been preparing for years, literally, for this day, they've got to be extremely nervous. >> look, the mandela inauguration back in 1994 was a who's who of world leaders as well and went off without a hitch. it was a very emotional, dramatic event. i just spoke to a federal law enforcement source who says of course there's a bit of nervousness but they think they are in good position here. you have support planes, groups
that have already gone over, there will be plain clothes people in the crowd and all that. think of the fascinating moment for the former presidents in the sense you have jimmy carter who was president when the iran hostage drama played out. george w. bush called iran the axis of evil. president obama who is trying to negotiate what would be a historic breakthrough on the nuclear program, do they talk about that at all? when the former presidents talk, mostly we learn nothing because those are off the record communications. but boy, you would love to know if they exchange any notes or historical reflections or observations. but it's a big historic event and we will find out in bits and pieces after about the interaction between the presidents themselves. >> it would be interesting to see what if anything happens, because there will be representatives, high ranking officials from iran, for example, attending the memorial service, presumably the funeral on sunday as well. and these kinds of diplomatic awkward moments potentially could be significant. >> sometimes awkward moments, sometimes either the front of the cameras or away from the cameras, a chance for somebody
even in a very brief conversation, maybe, to start a relationship or to continue or advance a relationship, or let's just say, the president raul castro, if the president of the united states wanted to change a relationship, he could do it. often you learn days, weeks, months, sometimes even years later that somebody met somebody at a big event like this and whether it's a day later or a year later, it actually helped move a ball at some point. >> wondering if, for example, i don't know if this is in the realm of possibility, if the president is there and happens to be standing next to raul castro, he says to him you know, president castro, there's an american citizen who has been held for four years in cuba, alan gross, don't you think he should be allowed to come home. >> would the president do that or one of his people with one of castro's people. that's one of the questions. i just end going back to that moment, i remember fidel castro was walking the halls because he knew vice president gore was right there and wanted to give him a cigar. he was in a cheery mood and a couple staffers got in trouble because they took advantage of the moment and took a photograph with fidel castro in the hall at
the mandela inauguration. >> awkward. cuba technically still listed as a state department -- by the state department as a country that supports international terrorism. that's a further complicating factor. >> very tough for the president himself to do it. >> john, thanks very much. john king reporting for us. up next, iranian leaders threatening to walk away from the historic nuclear agreement with world powers. we will show you what's happening in the u.s. senate potentially that could cause the collapse of the deal. plus, sheriff's deputies accused of beating inmates and visitors. we have new details of more than a dozen arrests. i have low testosterone. there, i said it.
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at least potentially. jim sciutto is watching what's going on. i know the obama administration is very concerned what these members of the senate are planning on doing. >> no question. this puts congress on a direct collision course with the white house. as you know, they have been lobbying hard, the administration has been lobbying hard against it, secretary kerry, including sending a video message over the holidays arguing against sanctions, saying that will in effect scuttle this deal. what we're seeing now, that intense lobbying campaign appears to have fallen on deaf ears, even among members of the president's own party. with the ink barely dry on the historic nuclear deal with iran, today the iranian foreign minister pronounced it dead if congress passes more economic sanctions. the entire deal is dead, he told "time" magazine. we do not like to negotiate under duress. even so, sources tell cnn republican and democratic senators are close to doing exactly that, nearing agreement on a bill to impose new
sanctions within six months unless iran ships all stockpiles of enriched uranium out of the country and dismantles both its heavy water plutonium reactor and uranium enrichment program, two separate paths to a nuclear bomb. >> 30 years, they have been one of the more chaotic, mayhem-causing regimes on the planet. why would you want to let the ayatollahs have the ability to enrich and hope the u.n. can stop them? that's not an acceptable out come. >> reporter: the administration is calling for none of those proposed steps in its negotiations with iran. this weekend, president obama once again said he can live with uranium enrichment on iranian soil. >> we can envision an end state that gives us an assurance that even if they have some modest enrichment capability, it is so constrained and the inspections are so intrusive that they, as a practical matter, do not have breakout capacity.
>> reporter: the administration gained some grudging support for diplomacy with iran from its harshest critics so far, israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu. >> israel is prepared to do what is necessary to defend itself. we share president obama's preference to see iran's nuclear weapons program end through diplomacy. >> senate aides tell me it's the view of the senators on the hill that these new sanctions would only strengthen the administration's hand at the negotiating table. that is certainly not the white house view. in fact, white house sources calling this seriously counterproductive. it's their view that it damages their position not only with iranians but with their european partners who are an essential part of this deal. they are pushing back hard. doesn't appear that that's working. >> the six-month time frame is significant because the interim agreement is supposed to last for six months and if there's no long term commitment, only then these new sanctions presumably would go into effect. >> no question. that's exactly the senators' argument. the white house argument is hey, listen, in six months, you can pass the sanctions then, no problem. in the meantime, this could scuttle the deal and you hear
from foreign minister zarif that it appears it has at least a chance of doing that. >> even though it won't take effect until after the six months. jim, good reporting. thank you. shocking arrests in los angeles. 16 current and former sheriff's deputies taken into custody as part of an fbi probe into alleged misconduct at the county jail, including alleged beatings of inmates and even visitors. our crime and justice correspondent joe johns is working this story for us. pretty shocking stuff. what are these deputies actually accused of doing? >> reporter: this is an enormous sheriff's department. the l.a. county jails have been called some of the worst in the country for prisoner abuse and the allegations if true sound like a case of jail guards gone wild. even visitors to the jail beaten up and in some instances, handcuffed, detained, including incredibly consul general of the consulate of aus strtria who we there to visit a prisoner. this is a long-running federal investigation. the charges include allegations
that employees of the department deprived jail prisoners of civil rights, also obstruction of justice allegations. apparent attempts to cover up the truth after it became clear that cases were under investigation. some of the most outlandish alleged behavior started after it became known that an informant in the jail was working with the fbi. the u.s. attorney's office said employees of the sheriff's department went so far as to try to get a judge to release names of everybody involved in the investigation and when that didn't work, allegedly tried to put the squeeze on an fbi agent. >> despite a judge's refusal to issue this order because he had no jurisdiction over the federal agency, two los angeles county sheriff's deputies, sergeants, allegedly confronted an fbi special agent outside her residence in an attempt to intimidate her into providing details about the investigation. >> reporter: now, in the past, sheriff lee bacca has said it was the fbi who was breaking the
law and said there was really no attempt to intimidate the fbi agent. it doesn't really sound all that smart. these claims of corruption and brutality go back years and years. >> how far up the chain does all of this go? >> reporter: that's a huge question. the sheriff is going to hold a news conference around 3:30 pacific time, but it is pretty clear that the united states attorney tried to walk around any questions of how high that goes. there's also a clear indication that this investigation is ongoing so there are things the authorities are not saying at this stage. >> joe johns reporting. pretty shocking stuff, out in california. thanks very much. just ahead, you won't believe what the robot on mars has discovered. why it could help answer the long-time question, is there life on mars. and wait until you also hear what a music legend sang, sang a classic billy joel song at the kennedy center. we will play it for you. i think you are going to enjoy it.
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so fresh in the minds of so many people, but this saturday actually marks one year since the horrific massacre at the sandy hook elementary school in newtown, connecticut. families of the victims as well as other newtown residents have asked the news media to respect their privacy. they announced the new website to honor their loved ones. listen to what some of them said. >> in the midst of our grief, we have come to realize that we want our loved ones to be remembered for the lives they lived and how they touched our
hearts. we have been uplifted by the support of so many people and we would like to keep that spirit of unity and love alive in all we do to remember those we so dearly miss. it is with this in mind that we have created the my sandy hook website. this website is intended to serve as a singular place of sharing, communication and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day. >> on the one-year mark of this horrific day, we know that many people across the country will be thinking of our children and educators, so tragically taken from us. and wondering how to help. we ask that you consider performing an act of kindness or volunteering with a charitable
organization in your own local community. we hope that some small measure of good may be returned to the world. >> the families say sdploot let other stories coming in. more than 1700 flights are canceled. many are stranded. temperatures plunged below friezing, even in california, nevada. windchills are 40 below zero in the midwest. snow and ice has blanketed the northeast, including in yonkers, new york. fortunately none of the injuries appeared to be serious. nasa set it's found evidence of a large freshwater lake on mars. samples from the mars curiosity
robot that's been collecting data from mars last year revealed the lake may have been around for thousands of years, but eventually turned to desert. i was thrilled to be in attendian at the annual kennedy center honors here in washington, d.c. this year's show brought together entertainers and politicians alike, including the president and the first lady to celebrate the careers of five len jsz -- shirley mcclay herbie hancock, carlos santana and billy joel. listen to garth brooks performs billy joel's hit "only the good die young." ♪
♪ and the rapper snoop dogg pumped up the crowd with his tribute to herbie hancock, much to the delight of president obama. ♪ c'mon, give me some keys, that guitar. make it funky, y'all. hey, herbie, you know we love you, baby. c'mon, somebody say yeah. say yeah. say hancock. say hancock. ♪ ♪
>> the president, and the wife of the secretary of state, they were enjoying snoop dogg, as all of us were. what a night. the full performance, by the way, will air later this month on cbs. just ahead, imagine waking up in a strange hospital room from a ten-year coma, only to find out none of it is real form the epic prank, coming up ♪ ♪ by the end of december, we'll be delivering ♪ ♪ through 12 blizzards blowing ♪ 8 front yards blinding ♪ 6 snowballs flying ♪ 5 packages addressed by toddlers ♪ ♪ that's a q ♪ 4 lightning bolts ♪ 3 creepy gnomes ♪ 2 angry geese ♪ and a giant blow-up snowman ♪ that kind of freaks me out [ beep ] [ female announcer ] no one delivers the holidays like the u.s. postal service.
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year long coma. >> my son was 2 years old when you came in here. he's 12 now. >> reporter: we know only his first name, dennis. he has a long history of driving under the influence. >> we could do this bit any given night. >> reporter: the bit involved turns an office to a hospital room. when he passed out from drinking, they say they carried him in until the care of a fake nurse and doctors. >> i know you're confused, a little disoriented. >> reporter: dennis was only out for about three hours or so. the pranksters say he was still intoxicated when he woke up. >> you decided to drive while drinking, and there was an accident. the accident took place back in 2013, this is 2023. you've been in a coma for the past ten years. >> reporter: who would doing something like this? tom maybe is a professional prankster, but in this case was worried about his friend's
drinking. >> watch a little television. >> miley cyrus is facing eviction from a trailer park, you may recall back in 2015 she was busted for cooking meth in her double wide. >> reporter: i have to say it was hard to believe. we go through it saying, is that fake? >> he was totally hook line and sinker, up to a video where he recognizes me. >> this is tom dressed up like a doctor. >> what do you recall? >> drinking, that's all i remember. >> then the doctor. >> feel that? >> slaps some sense into limb? you feel that? with the doctor's mask off dennis recognized tom. [ bleep ]. >> it's not funny. it's not funny. >> five duis. i ought to kill you. he laughed a whole, whole thought.
man, you guys got me, man, you got me. i'm not sure that he learned a lessons. >> some posters were mad turning hi addiction into a joke. tom says they're pushing to get dennis into a program. after all duis could leave someone else in a real coma, when dennis came out slaphappy. you [ bleep ] got to stop it. >> jeanne moos, cnn, new york. that that now, a security nightmare. president obama is on the way to south africa forred policemenial service. this hour the potential dangers he faces along with three former u.s. presidents and dozens of world leaders. plus killing cancer like a cold. a new experimental treatment is saving young lives, patients who thought their options had run out. online gamers beware, the nsa may be spies on you.
declassified documents reveal the feds are snooping on players of some very popular games. what or who are they looking for? i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." it all begins in just a matter of hours, one of the biggest farewells to a world leaders ever. the memorial service for nelson mandela is bringing together hundreds of powerful people from around the globe, including four american presidents, along with tens of thousands of south africans. it will be crowded and emotional, and it will be a huge security challenge. our senior white house security correspondent brianna keilar is standing by, but first let's go to aisha is the move building on the ground before this massive memorial service? >> reporter: hi there, wolf. i'm outside nelson many della as
home. right now it's just after 1:00 a.m. local. the whole country is building up, kicking off at 11:00 a.m. local time. as you said, wolf, we are looking at extraordinary scenes potential as we look rat over 90 heads of state descending here on south africa, and tens of thousands of ordinary south africans flooding into that location to pay their final farewell. this is a massive logistical undertaking for the south african government. as we understand it, the leave for all security personnel has canceled. there will be about 11,000 security officials on hand at fnb stadium tomorrow. to try to assure this goes off
without a hitch. >> i understand there's even more intense prep raze under way for this major event, and of course the funeral will take place on sunday. this is the memorial service at this huge soccer stadium. >> reporter: yes, instead. it's important to give some context to the soccer stadium where this is being held. this is the scene of his last public appearance, the closing stages of the 2010 world cup. that's the last time most saw him in public. not many point this out, it's also the scene of one of his first speeches after being released from prison back in 1990. he addressed thousands in that stadium as well. this stadium is closely attached to nelson mandela and his public appearances here in this country. it's a fitting venue for the memorial which will start in a couple hours, wolf. >> thanks very much. george wurks bush is abard air force one, so is hillary
clinton. you can only imagine what those conversations must be like. former presidents bill clinton and jimmy carter will join them at the memorial service. they're flying to the south africa separately. protecting all of them will be a security nightmare. brianna keilar is joins us with more. what are you learning, brianna? >> reporter: due to the fact that nelson mandela's health was ailing, the white house had a travel plan in place for his funer funeral, but according to officials from previous administrations who have planned similar trips, they say it's still a monumental challenge of security and logistics. an historic flight to pay tribute to nelson mandela. on board air force one with president and mrs. obama, president george wurks bush and first lady laura bush and former secretary of state hillary clinton. on the way to south africa, they gathered together in the plane's
conference room telling their stories that spanned three presidential administrations. president's clinton and carter are traveling separately to johannesburg. the last time these presidents were all together was in april at the opening of the george w. bush presidential library, but this event in a foreign country will mean much greater security concerned. sources involved in planning president clinton's prim to the funeral of israel prime minister rabin, and the funeral of pope john paul ii tells cnn it decrease nerve-racking to depend on a foreign country. >> they do a lot of planning and they're very good at this. the south africans have challenges, in addition to security, logistical challenges. >> reporter: the memorial service will take place in a soccer stadium that holds 90,000 people. more than 90 world leaders are expected to attend. leaders of six nations will be speaking, including president
obama, who was active in the anti-apartheid movement as a college student attending and speaking at a rally. >> i am one of the countless millions that drew inspiration from nelson mandela's life. my very first political action, the first thing i ever did that involved an slough or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. >> reporter: >> reporter: president obama is as we speak, woufl, enrule to south africa still, and we've learned some about the seating arrangements. he and mrs. obama are in their normal cabin. in the medical office behind their cabin, that is where the bushes are. behind that, the senior staff cabin, that's where hillary clinton is. of course, when they were all not gabbing in the conference room, as we always learned that they did. >> i'm sure they did. >> potential an awkward moment, as you know, cuba's president will be sharing the same stage with president obama, both
speaking at the memorial service. how is that expected to unfold? >> reporter: that's right. this is something that could be unexpected, wolf, because previous officials to other trips like this have said, you know, sometimes you can't necessarily keep these foreign leaders apart. it's sort of a feat of maneuvering, but there is a portion of the service where you have six foreign leaders paying tribute. president obama will be the first of the six, raul castro is the last to pay his respects, but they are sharing a stage. i think it is interesting that you have, obviously the u.s. and cuba, which were enemies during the cold war, certainly not the friendliest of nations, but nelson mandela who in life was so unifying in south africa, an inspiration to others, even in his death he's unifying some unlikely characters. >> brianna, thank you. brianna is over at the white house. we'll watch this memorial service, of course, unfold. cnn will have live coverage of the memorial service. it begins 4:00 a.m. eastern.
still ahead, an american veteran is bam home after more than a month as a captive in north korea. we have new information about the way he was treated. we're learning more about kimdown u.n.'s unpredictable regi regime. he thought he was out of options until doctors tried something new. they killed his cancer in much the say way that our bodies fight the common cold. >> now they can't even find it. how does that feel? >> really great. my customers can shop around-- see who does good work and compare costs. it doesn't usually work that way with health care. but with unitedhealthcare, i get information on quality rated doctors, treatment options and estimates for how much i'll pay. that helps me, and my guys, make better decisions. i don't like guesses with my business, and definitely not with our health. innovations that work for you. that's health in numbers. unitedhealthcare.
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getting new information on the release of that 85-year-old american korean war veteran held captive by north korea for more than a month. merrill newman is back home with
his family and he's speaking out about his time in captivity. let's bring in our pentagon correspondent bash ra farr. i understand a new statement has been released from mr. newman? >> absolutely. this statement from the elderly war veteran tells of his captors trying to intimidate him, but him finding ways around that. merrill newman is finally back home in california after more than a month in north korean captivity. >> what's the first thing you'll do? >> probably take my shoes off. i'm tired, but ready to be with my family now. >> reporter: in a remarkable news statement, newman himself explains why he think the the north koreans detained him, saying, quote, i've given considerable thought to this and have come to the conclusion that i just didn't understand that, for the north korean regime, the korean war isn't over, and that
even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner. newman says he requested for visit an area where korean partisans and anticommunist guerrilla guerrillas and possibly meet with those who were still alive. the new yorkance seemed to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something nor sinister. newman confirming this so-called confession. >> i understand in u.s. and western countries there is misleading information and propaganda. >> reporter: was written for him by the regime. he said he tried to read it in a way that everyone would know they weren't his words, but no release for kenneth bay, an american held for more than a year. perhaps it's a fact that he is a missionary, and was trying to get north koreans to deeffect. >> reporter: a growing sense that kim jong-un may be
increasingly unpredictable and potential dangerous. in front of the faithful, kim purged his once all-powerful uncle of all posts. to me it's more concerning that the leader of north korea sacks the number one man, the man he mosts trusts, and then last summer sacked the top general in the system. if you cannot trust your number one and number two men, that clearly means you don't trust anybody. >> reporter: more worried signs of what he might be up to, construction at a missile site has not been finished and a reactor restarted that may be capable of making fuel for nuclear bombs. wolf? >> certainly all of us are happy that mr. newman is home. let's hope kene bay is home soon. let's switch gears, talk about afghanistan. chuck hagel over the weekend was
in afghanistan thanking u.s. troops for their commitment there on the eve of christmas and new year's. he's visiting afghanistan, a country where the u.s. has been at war,est war in american history, 12, 13 years where the u.s. has spend hundreds of billions, lost thousands of troops, and the president of afghanistan, hamid karzai doesn't even have time to invite him in for a cup of coffee. what is going on. >> reporter: well, what the pentagon will tell you is that hagel never planned to meet with karzai during this trip, that it was simply a trip to thank the troops. he did, however, meet with some top afghan government officials to discuss what is going on and why karzai won't sign the security agreement that the u.s. needs that signature on in order to keep troops there after the end of 2014. let's be very clear. the u.s. isn't so anxious to stand right next for karzai right now. he is so unpredictable, that
they really don't understand fully, they say, what he is up to. right now they're working with the second tier of afghan officials trying to get this resolved. wolf? >> we'll see what happens. at stake thousands of u.s. troops that could be stuck at the cost of bills ona year, and hamid karzai won't even talk. it's pretty shocking when you think about t we'll continue to follow the afghan story, because it is so important. barba barbara, thanks very much. a groundbreaking and life-saving new treatment for cancer. it effectively trains a patient's body for fight off the disease, a lot the way our bodies fight off the common cold. elizabeth, how sick was this patient before trying this new treatment? >> wolf, this patient like all the others in the study was very sick. his cancer was impervious to everybody they tried.
nick wilkins lives in virginia, and he had had chemotherapy, he was diagnosed at age 4. chemotherapy and it came back. he then got a bone marro transplant from his older sister. still the cancer came back. he and his parents were at the end of the road. there was nothing left to try. when they found out about this ching cal trial in pennsylvania, he got the treatment in may, it's decent. he is now cancer free. of course everyone is praying that he doesn't relapse like he did before. now, it's interesting, when you talked about the common cold, the way this treatment works is that it teaches nick's immune system to get rid of cancer. when you have a cold, somehow your immune cells, they now how to see the cold and attack it. this treatment teaches nick's cells how to see cancer and how to attack it. wolf, i'm going to let nick explain it. >> they took out t-cells out of my body, and then engineered
them to kind of track down the cancer cells and kill them off. >> did they get them? >> i hope so. i'm feeling good now. i think they did pretty well. >> they tried this treatment in 59 patients total, and it worked in 25 of them. they still are cancer-free. some of them have been cancer free for more than three years and counting. wolf? >> let's hope for the best. sounds pretty significant to me. 'liz beth, thanks very much. just ahead. if you or your kids or grandkids play popular -- you may be a target of in nsa spying. guess what? my long simmering rivalry with ron burgen did i. it's all about facial hair and stolen dreams. we'll share the details. did you know more coffee drinkers
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we're learning about another way the federal spies are keep tabs on potential at least some everyday americans as part every their mission to track down terrorists overseas. if you play popular video games online, it turns out the nsa may be watching. our brian todd is looking into these new revelations. >> reporter: they can track us online, pinpoint our locations through the cell phones and now true the video games kids and young adults play. anyone playing the game world of warcraft as druids, death knights, could also have another designation -- surveillance targets. according to newly disclosed classified documents, the nsa and its british counterpart have been infiltrating world of warcraft, another online game called second life, and the xbox live console. they've gathered metadata, according to the documents, but also used human spies to go under cover and create their own after atars, makebelieve
characters so they could interact with possibly terrorists playing games. >> the documents were obtained from edward snowden and shared with "new york times" and propublica. why did they do this? >> in the onlime gaming world, you can communicate openly between two characters. this is not something that goes over the line. it's in a smaller group. you can also gift money in the form of gold or characters or online currency. >> conceivably terrorists could plan real attacks through thinks fantasy games. experts say the fake identities, voice and text chat capability, the ability to speak to others in real time, are all features of game play that terrorists find attractive, but the nsa's spying program raises privacy concerns. >> it's a privacy viles. people who participate think of
the game interactions as ephemeral. you participate in the game, it disappears, you don't know who the characters are. everything is fantasy. if it turns out that the government is routinely storing all of that activity, analyzing it, linging it up to actual individuals, then i think there will be concerns. >> according ko "the guardian" and "the times" with all those elves, gnomes being survail there's no indication of any plot foiled. contacted by cnn, the nsa would not comment. it did say that its foreign intelligence mission is centered on, quote, valid foreign intelligence targets. a spokesman for the nsa's british counterpart would not confirm or deny the report, but says that agency's activities are necessary and legal. the makers of exwok and world every warcramant are not aware of any surveillance and would
not have given permission. second life's maker has not commented. you may not know it, but ron and i are very longtime rivals. not keeping or simmering feud a secret anymore. watch this. >> when we were coming up in the late '70s, ron burgen did i gotted lead anchor position, because his moustache was slightly bigger than mine. you have to understand, this was the '70s. people found comfort in a moustache i don'ted man. that's why i loved my beard. but i would trade it for burgen did i's moustache in, today he has the most award of any anchor, some honestly i think belong to mer, because they're literally mine, took them off my shelf, right in front of me and
acted like i didn't see it. all stuff you can see, by the way, you can see more of my true confessions about ron burgundy. you can see them there, and see anderson cooper and chris cuomo. they trash ron burgundy as well. they are very powerful statements. go to if you're interested. by the way, i eet come face-to-face with the man behind the movie character. be sure to watch my interview with will ferrell in "the situation room" later this week. i think you will enjoy it. remember. you can always follow what's going on in "the situation room" on twitter. tweet the show @cnnsitroom. "crossfire" starts right now. tonight on controversy, should the government keep paying people who are out of work? >> they aren't people that just don't want to work.
these are people looking for jobs. >> is it worth shutting down the government if they can't make a deal. all 50 states are waiting, and there isn't much time. on the left, van jones. on the right newt gingrich. in the crossfire, neil abercrombie, the democratic governor of hawaii, and tim pawlenty, the republican former governor of minnesota. should congress fix our problems now? or kick the can down the road? tonight on "crossfire." welcome to "crossfire." i'm newt gingrich on the right. >> i'm van jones on the right. we have a current governor and former governor from different political parties. congress has tons to do, time is running out. for 1.3 million americans seeking work, nothing is more important than extending the unemployment benefits. two weeks before christmas, and republicans want to pull the plug, including 20,000 veterans.
here's senator rand paul over the weekend. this guy would make scrooge very proud. >> you're causing them to become this part of perpetual unemployed group in our economy. while it seems good, it does a disselfto the people you're trying to help. >> uh, no. welcome to the real world, senator, where there are still three job applicants for every one job out there, cutting the lifeline for active job seekers there not magically create, but it will put -- cutting unemployment benefits? that is a five ho ho ho, newt gingrich. first, let me say i believe there are things we could do to dramatically improve the impact. to actually prepare people for getting to work and versus a better job in the future. but took in the crossfire, weapon hawaii's democratic